Wednesday, January 12, 2011

No Thank You.

So, I faithfully watch The Bachelor franchise. I do not expect your support for this decision. It is a Personal Life Choice for me.

Those of us who watch The Bachelor know, and fully anticipate, that certain ridiculous words and phrases will recur throughout each season. The show knows this, the people on the show know it, and we in the audience wait for it, so that we can wince (or drink) accordingly when we hear:

"on this journey"
"soul mate"
"here for the right reasons"
"most dramatic/controversial/etc season EVER"
prince/princess metaphors
"I came here to fall in love"
"this process"
and many others

But the phrase that struck me on Monday night's show came during Brad Womack's one-on-one date with Jackie. To me, there was a clear dealbreaker on this date for Brad, and it wasn't Jackie's supposed cautiousness in love or the irksome amount of times she confirmed that she felt special.

It was how she kept saying "thank you."

I am all for being polite. My mother is a please-and-thank-you Nazi, and I admire her for that and (yes) thank her for training me to be a polite, appreciative person.

As a child, I learned to say thank you early and often, both verbally and via handwritten notes, which are probably about as common as five-year diaries these days.

But you can say thank you too much.

Let's say you're in a long-distance relationship, and your bf/gf comes to visit you. Let's say, like Jackie, you're on a date, and the other person signals that he's interested in being with you by kissing you, or making a general effort. Let's say you're going through a hard time, and a friend listens to you.

In moments like these, saying thank you is more insulting than polite. Certain actions are part and parcel of real relationships. You don't say thank you for them, as you would to someone who doesn't owe you these things. To say thank you in such a moment is actually a way of putting distance between yourself and the other person. You don't mean to do this, because you're busy being grateful and proper. But that's the effect.

Have you ever been thanked for something you considered it obvious to do in a relationship? It feels a little surprising and overly formal, doesn't it?

Still, my thank-you indoctrination has been complete and overly successful. Once, after a night out, one of mom's best friends gave me a ride home after a concert on her way out of the city. It was a no-brainer ride -- literally on her way.

I told her she could just drop me off a few blocks away. I get extremely uncomfortable at anything that might put someone out on my behalf. I generally avoid asking for rides, loans and most favors in general. She insisted on dropping me at my exact location. I thanked her.

At that point she got offended. "Of course," she said, shutting me up. She was understandably annoyed. The woman had known me for some 25 years; we were just at a concert together; my place is right on her way home. Of course she's going to drop me off at my door. To suggest otherwise by standing on ceremony and thanking her excessively is to cast doubt on her status as a real person in my life.

To this day, I have problems with this. Some of my loved ones are the same way. We thank each other too much: Thank you for listening to my crap. Thank you for coming out with me. Thank you for coming to visit me.

You do not say thank you for this stuff. It is part of the territory.

My thank-you heritage hit me one day after I'd been hanging out with my nephew, who was maybe 5 or 6 years old at the time, at my parents' house. At the end of the day, as he was about to leave, my mother urged him, "Say thank you to Neena for playing with you today." He dutifully thanked me.

My heart was broken in that moment. I tried to break the cycle there. My mom meant well. But I looked at my nephew and said, "You don't have to thank me. You never have to thank me for playing with you."

Music: "Thank You"


  1. May I suggest an additional theme song for this post?

  2. Excellent. What a getup he's wearing!

  3. I want to thank you for giving me the best day of my life.


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